Posts Tagged ‘isfield’


June 24, 2016

Isfield – not to be confused with my childhood home of Ifield – is an important place to me. I can trace direct ancestors, baptised at the church, back into the 17th century. Isfield is in East Sussex. It’s about 5 and a bit miles north east of Lewes and is, in many ways, an ordinary enough place but to me it is special. Right through into the 1960s I visited relatives in Isfield but if I have any now, I don’t know them.

Unsurprisingly, when I was really into my own family history, ten or more years ago, I acquired postcards of relevant places including Isfield to supplement the family ones I had. This is one I acquired.


This attractively tinted photo shows the forge at Isfield. I have a detailed 1899 map of the area and we can see ‘smithy’ marked on it.


Now I guess my great grandfather’s brother, Harry, learned his trade here. The 1871 census lists him as a blacksmith, living with his parents in Isfield. Later he worked in neighbouring Ringmer but he returned to Isfield after his wife died.

Isfield was the place three sisters from Butley in Suffolk happened to come to. I really don’t know why, but Sarah Ann Crosby – mentioned in yesterday’s blog post – came, met and married my great grandfather and they lived the rest of their lives in or quite near to Isfield.



Dad’s notes on relatives from Butley

June 23, 2016

Butley is in south Suffolk, not far from Woodbridge.

I came across a note dad had made back in 1968. He visited Butley with his mum. Butley had been the childhood home of her mum – my great grandmother. Her maiden name was Sarah Ann Crosby.

Back in 1968 he knew very little. I’d have been a teenager and probably not much interested.

Here’s the first part of his note.


Dad’s writing never was that easy to read so I’ll transcribe.

Butley – 11-7-68

A woman named Crosby is remembered by the village shopkeeper. She married Charlie Mann the village cobbler. They had a daughter, Mary Ann whom my mother remembers visiting them at Isfield. Mary Ann went to Canada or America. There was also a son, Harry, killed in World War 1.

None of the children at the village school knew the name Crosby.

We now know a bit more than this. Eliza Crosby did marry Charlie Mann, We know of five children. Charles was born in 1888, Mary Ann in 1890, William (sometimes George) in 1892, Harry in 1894, and Edward in 1896.

There is a second part to dad’s notes.


Aunt Ellen married a Snowdon in Sussex and later he died and she married Huntley. It was this aunt who took charge of Sarah Ann. Sarah Ann worked at Gibraltar Farm.

There was an Uncle Ted and Uncle Jack.

In fact my gran had nine uncles and aunts called Crosby as well as her mother, Sarah Ann. Gibraltar Farm appears to be in Firle. I know my dad always thought that Sarah Ann moved to Sussex when she was a girl. I think from census records she was over 20 so being looked after by her big sister Ellen may not have been day to day care, but maybe helping her find a place to work.

It was interesting to find Dad’s note – largely correct but written on spoken testimony from his mum only.

A page from a family bible

April 2, 2016

Thomas Stevens was a first cousin three times removed. His grandfather was my three greats grandfather. Of course, our lives never overlapped so I never knew him and nor do I have any photos of him. But he appears at the head of some family bible pages which were once sent to me.


Yes, that’s him, born October 23rd 1848 – 100 years before I came along. And he, like all my Stevens family, was born in Isfield – some were born in neighbouring parishes.

But his descendants clearly had a more mixed life for we see that Stephen married a girl from Reading. She was called Mary Holyfield before she married. And their marriage took place in Salisbury which is in my current home county – neither of theirs!

Children were born in Derby and then Worcester and perhaps the family stayed Midlands based then for when Thomas died it was at Kidderminster. Oh! Except that in 1891 he was living and working in Merthyr Tydfil in Wales.

Thomas appears to have worked in the grocery trade.

The writing continues in a different hand to record the death of Thomas in 1894 and also shows family births up to 1975. But this male line of Stevens died out so all my unknown relatives still alive, who descend from Thomas now have different surnames.



September 6, 2014

Just occasionally you can strike it lucky with names. One branch of my family, basically in Sussex, were keen on the somewhat Italian sounding name of Lorenzo. The name passed through several generations and I have certainly checked out 19th century people from the right area of Sussex if they have Lorenzo as a name. It could just indicate they are related.

My Lorenzo search started when I realised that Lorenzo John Stevens,  born 1866 in Isfield in Sussex, was a brother of my great grandfather, George Stevens (We have met him on this blog).

Lorenzo proved to be a bit more mobile than some of the family – Great grandfather George moved house very frequently, but always within a mile or so of an area of woodland known as Plashetts.

When Lorenzo married, in 1893, it was in far-away Leicestershire. I was lucky enough to be sent a wedding photo.


The label says Wedding of Lorenzo John Stevens to Miss Emma Harrison. 1893 Newton Linford, Leicestershire.

It’s a bit faded so, ignoring the label let’s try improving it a bit.


The groom, my great great uncle is the tall man at the front. Obviously, Emma, his bride, is in the dark outfit next to him. She was the local girl from Newton Linford, so probably many of the other folks in the photo are her family. But two of the men bear a striking similarity to my great grandfather.



And here, for comparison, is G grandfather.


I’d love to know if any of those wedding guests had made the journey up from Sussex. I reckon that if they had it would have been the trip of a lifetime for them.

Lorenzo lived to a ripe old age and didn’t die until 1957. In theory, I could have met him and known him. But of course, I never heard of him until the late 1990 so his stories were never passed to me and of course, at about age 8, I would never have been interested in them anyway.

Susannah Allen

March 27, 2014

Meet the Relative

Susannah Allen was my great great aunt. I never knew her nor do I have a photo of her. I bet they existed and I have a hope that maybe a blog post will turn up something. I did know her daughter who was my gran’s cousin.

Susannah was born Susannah Crosby in about 1854 in Butley in Suffolk where she joined quite a large family including my great grandmother, Sarah Ann Crosby. She was at home with her parents in 1861 but in 1871 she was a servant living in Hatton Gardens in London. Mrs Crowe, the householder’s wife came from Blythburgh in Sussex so may have been known to the Crosby family. Susannah’s parents had married in Blythburgh.

In 1881 Susannah drops right off the radar. I just can’t find her on that census and I am left wondering if she went abroad, or if an employer gave her a different name or if she just got missed out.

By 1888 she was in Isfield in Sussex, where two older sisters lived and she married David Allen, the blacksmith. Susannah appears on the 1891 census living at The Forge with Susannah and two daughters. Mary was aged one and Mabel was three months.

In 1901 David Allen had left the smithy and was a general labourer. The family, which now included 6 year old Ellen (the one I knew), lived on The Street in Isfield.

David died in 1905. He’d have been aged about 43 at the time. The death was registered in Brighton which makes me wonder if he might have had TB. There was a sanatorium in Brighton.

In 1911 Susannah was a charwoman living at Isfield with an 8 year old niece called Dorothy Allen.

I like the 1911 census for being written by the householder. With no photo of Susannah, I can at least see her handwriting.


Susannah, ten years older than her late husband lived in Isfield until her death in 1934. My one tangible item for Susannah is a memorial card.


We can see that Susannah was buried in Isfield churchyard.

I knew her youngest daughter, Ellen (known as Nellie). When I knew her in the 1950s and 60s she was married to Reuben Josling. They had no children.


Ellen Josling is on the left next to Reuben, her husband. Next comes my dad and his aunt Nellie from Firle. On the right is my mum.

I never knew, or even knew of Susannah’s older girls. I’d love to hear from any members of their family.

Charcoal burners

November 30, 2013

My original home county of Sussex was once heavily forested. When iron stone was found as well, charcoal was needed in large quantities for the iron smelting business. Charcoal ‘burning’ became a steady occupation for men willing to live in rather temporary shacks out in the woods. It was actually a skilled job to get the wood carbonised into charcoal, but not to allow it to really catch fire. The charcoal fire needed round the clock attention for several days. Here we see a post card of a charcoal burner’s home in Arundel Park.


My family didn’t live in that part of Sussex, but even so, this is a family postcard.


This card was sent to my Gran, Ethel Stevens in January 1905. The address was that of my Gran’s own granny, Helen Stevens. The sender was my Great Aunt Eliza. She was in service in Firle.

The message really reflects how postcards were the text message of the day. It is really a brief message more or less saying, ‘see you at five o’clock at the station tomorrow’.

In 1903 Eliza had ‘got into trouble’. She had a child!  I have the feeling, from some postcards, that my gran, still a youngster, did quite a lot of caring for baby Ernie for Eliza had to work. But I note on this card that Eliza says, ‘hope all are well as it leaves us both the same’. So Eliza seemed to be writing on behalf of two people, but the second one might have been Will Hughes who she married in 1906.

Whatever the situation, it’s a cute card which perhaps great great granny might have remembered seeing in her area, and like all messages, it adds just a little to family knowledge.

A Mystery Post Card

August 5, 2013

I do love the fact that we have so many post cards from the Edwardian era that link to the family. Some give little bits of family information. Others cry out for more so that we can know who they were from. This is one of the mystery cards – from an unknown sender.

The picture is cute.


The card was sent to my grandmother, whilst she was in service in Saxon Court in Buxted in Sussex.


As is often the case, a stamp collector has been at work so we can’t get an actual posting date, but we know that Gran was in service at Saxon Court from about 1906 to 1912. The card was posted in Steyning which may have been Hove, actually. Many girls from Sussex ended up in service in Brighton and Hove.

Our sender has written most of the message at right angles to the address.


My Dear E

Many thanks for your nice letter, I will try and write one to you in a day or so. What lovely showers of rain we have had. Have you started haymaking around Buxted yet.

And then we have to turn the card again.


Kind love to you from all at home. May XXXXX.

So, we can judge that the card was sent in May/June time for the start of haymaking and that having asked that question, we can guess that May was a country girl. But we are not certain at all as to who she was.

A possible card sender was Mary Elizabeth Allen who was Granny’s cousin. Like Granny, Mary was born an Isfield girl and she was in the environs of Brighton for the 1911 census – actually registered in the Steyning district. I never met her, and do not know if she called herself May but the ‘from all at home’ part of the message implies to me that she meant the Isfield area. Maybe she had recently visited her mum who was a widow by that time.

I suspect it will remain a mystery and I’ll never be certain who sent the card

Ringmer Smithy

July 30, 2013

Ringmer Smithy

Once upon a time my great great uncle, Harry Stevens, was a blacksmith at Ringmer so a picture of the smithy there is meaningful to me.


This is not a postcard from my youth or sent by ancestors. It is one I acquired much more recently.

It was in about the year 2000 that I caught the genealogy bug and started to find out more about ancestors and other relatives. Anyone called Harry mattered to me because I already knew I was the third generation to carry that name and my son was the fourth. I can now extend it at both ends and know that Harry the blacksmith made a 5th generation. His dad, my  great great grandfather made a 6th generation, there was a Harry in the previous generation, making a seventh generation and now I have a grandson who makes the eighth. There have been men called Harry in the family, all directly related to one another, since at least 1779.

Harry the blacksmith Stevens was born in 1849, probably in Isfield in Sussex.  In  1871 he was a blacksmith and the following year he married Ellen Medhurst.

In 1881 Harry was the Ringmer blacksmith living on the job and employing a man and a boy.

Ellen died in 1890. There had been no children and in 1891 Harry was back in Isfield, living with his mother.

Harry died in 1897.

I have no photos of Harry, but somewhere in the family there is a bill hook he made.

The postcard is not of Harry. In fact I do not know who is on it, but no doubt the scene is similar to the one Harry knew.

Granny’s Auntie Ellen

April 28, 2013

If Ellen was my gran’s aunt then she must be my great great aunt. Needless to say, I never knew her but I did know she was a favourite of my gran.

Ellen’s birth goes back a long time. She was born on 7th September 1840, in Blythburgh in Suffolk. This was a couple of months before her parents married. Her parents were James Crosby and Mary Ann Smith. This begs the question of whether Ellen was a Crosby or a Smith – but it goes deeper than that. Her Mother, Mary Ann was a Smith – also born before her mother married a Cullingford, so young Mary Ann became known as Mary Ann Cullingford. So just possibly Ellen was a Cullingford. What with these possibilities and the fact that Helen and Ellen were interchangeable names, it’s no wonder I haven’t yet found Ellen in the official birth records. However, she was baptised at Blythburgh Church on 25th October 1840.

For the 1841 census Elenor Crosby lived with her parents in Blythburgh. By 1851 they had moved to Butley, further south in Suffolk. They had arrived there in about 1848 after a stay in Tunstall also in Suffolk.

In 1861 Ellen was a servant in Marylebone London.

Before 1871 Ellen married. The 1871 census shows Ellen as Ellen Snowden and her husbands as William Snowden from Capel St Andrew which is very close to Butley. But the couple had moved to Sussex – to Isfield in fact and William who had been a shepherd in Suffolk was now a game keeper in Sussex.

Once again, records rather have me beaten. I cannot trace a marriage although a William Snowling married an Ellen Smith in the Uckfield district in 1862. Isfield is in the Uckfield district.

William died in 1881 – before the census was taken – so that year we find Ellen as a widow. She was working as housekeeper to George Huntley – a young widower. This situation continued in 1891. But in December of that year Ellen became Mrs George Huntley.

And that’s where we find Ellen in 1901 and again in 1911.

In about 1912 Ellen probably accompanied her niece and great nephew to Lewes where they had Sticky Back photos taken. Ellen was now in her 70s.


Ellen died in 1921. George joined her in 1924. They are buried at Isfield and have a stone.


A card to Granny (2)

March 24, 2013

Today I have a postcard which is a bit of a mystery. Here’s the picture.


Not surprisingly, I think this is a fantastic card. It has so much that I love. First of all there’s a large mill building and it says it has two methods of powering it. One is by water turbine and the other is by steam. Ooh! A shiver of enthusiasm goes through me.

Then, it is Isfield In terms of my family history, this village in Sussex is a real heartland. Generations of ancestors lived in and around Isfield (Don’t confuse it with Ifield where I spent much of my childhood – different places). It is history and I love history – particularly social history and the whole scene just oozes that. The mystery in the picture concerns the people. Who are they? I want to know because of the message.


The card is addressed to my grandmother. She’d have been 15 when the card was sent in 1907 and she was in service at Saxon Court – a small country house in Buxted. Significantly, Buxted is where my grandfather lived. We have seen, on this blog, a mirror writing message that Grandad had sent to Granny the following year. (Click here)

If you read the message you’ll see that the writer seemed to think my Gran would know about the gentleman in the picture. That’s what makes me really want to know who any of the three people in the picture might be. None of them look like boyfriend material for a 15 year old girl. They are not Gran’s father, nor, I would have thought, her brother. Gosh, I wonder who they are. But we are told that for one of them, at least, it is like him to a T, so just maybe there is somebody in the world who might recognise an Isfield area ancestor from around 1907.

The other thing I don’t know is who the sender was. She was called Mary and sent from Sevenoaks. She may well have been an Isfield area lass in service at the Kentish town. One possibility – and I have no idea if she was ever at Sevenoaks, is my Gran’s cousin, Mary Allen – a couple of years older than Gran and Isfield born.

Any other ideas would be very well received.